Journalism In Verse

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Reparations

in Politics by

Flapping, unleashing the winds of change
              like the curvature of raven wings,
                            like a heartbeat, a drumbeat:

This is celebration
              what it would mean to intone
                            a new vocabulary called reparations

to a soul-rifted nation.
              There are things that can be reset, resewn, repaired—
                            a broken bone, ripped sleeve, cracked fender.

But what of the ones left to die
              in streets or prisons?
                            What of broken beginnings, unholy crossings,

the right to the soil?
              Counting, recounting, accounting
                            leaves a white silence

of what might have been.
              40 acres and a mule.
                            This is celebration

what it would mean to intone a new vocabulary
              called atonement to a tone-deaf nation.
                            Unpaid, the past sweeping into the air

like choirs of birds or angels.
              If paid, what price to sing again a new freedom?
                            How to count the past:

250 years of slavery
              90 years of Jim Crow
                            60 years of separate but equal.

Could we exhume the past from the past:
              land seizures, redlining, cheap labor–
                            uncover the roots, chart a new course?

Repairing a heart or an ocean
              is like sailing in reverse
                            like letting the heart beat its steady drum.

This is celebration,
              the heartbeat, the drumbeat,
                            the wing-flap

what it would mean
              to intone a new vocabulary
                            called reckoning to the wreck of

lives not just bodies
              to take back the right to the soil
                            airing secrets that have enslaved

us all to a debt
              to a hushed biography of consequences
                            a balance accruing:

40 acres and a mule
              a heartbeat, a drumbeat
                            tapping the collective memory.

 

________

Sandra Fees has chapbooks published by Five Oaks Press and Finishing Line Press. Her work appears in Undocumented: Great Lakes Poets Laureate on Social Justice, Bards Against Hunger, The Aurorean, and The Comstock Review (forthcoming). She is Berks County’s Seventh Poet Laureate (Reading, Pennsylvania, 2016-18).

________

The Case for Reparations
[The Atlantic]

H.R.40 – Commission to Study and Develop Reparation Proposals for African-Americans Act
[Congress.gov]

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